Tag Archives: cultures

TWEET: “All communities have five dilemmas they have to cope with”

The set of unwritten norms of conduct that guide the behaviour of a group, expressing what is considered “right” and “wrong” Reznal Odnanref.

This final quote, which I have singled out above, is a good mantra for the ethnography exercise in the communities block.

Images inspired by the TED Talk  linked above and based on the work of Geert Hofstede

Fenando Lanzer makes some interesting points in this TED talk on the subject of the psychology of culture.

I found the section on hierarchy versus equality tricky.  Lanzer suggests that it is the people at the bottom of the social pyramid that determine whether there is a large ‘power distance’ i.e. whether or not a society is hierarchical.  He maintains that, in a dictatorship, the people at the bottom allow themselves to be dictated to.  To a certain extent I understand the point he is making, indeed we have seen the reverse of this in action when brutal dictatorships have been overthrown by popular uprising.  However, I doubt that many people living under such regimes would consider that they have any say in deciding whether the society they live in is hierarchical or not.

Considering Lanzer’s premise in the context of online communities though, I can see that the opposing options I’ve presented visually above do represent some of the types of ‘cultural norms’ that can become established as a community grows.

I also think the point he raises about the way an individual is treated in different cultures is very relevant to this digital cultures course.  We have multiple ‘selves’, our work self, family, social, academic and so on.  These might be selves where we are physically present (I’ve seen this referred to as our ‘meat self’) or our disembodied presence online.  In each of the ‘places’ we take these multiple selves there will be a prevailing culture and often a number of subcultures.  We have to adapt to a different set of cultural norms for each environment, choosing to comply with them or not.

From an educational perspective it seems sensible to consider that our students will  arrive, physically or virtually, with expectations of cultural norms based on their experiences elsewhere, or they may be presented with a situation, such as an empty discussion forum, where they will take part in developing new norms.